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Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel (In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel) Hardcover – August 15, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (August 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618029982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618029983
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noted author and translator Halkin (Letters to an American Jewish Friend) offers a captivating tale that is part travelogue, part ethnography, part cultural treasure hunt. His trail of tantalizing clues too often leads nowhere, but readers should hang in, because the search is not in vain, and the culture Halkin describes is in itself striking. He visits the Mizo people of northeast India a people who improbably but passionately claim to be descendants of the ancient Israelite tribe of Manasseh, one of the 10 tribes of northern Israel who were exiled by the Assyrians around 720 B.C. and then lost to history. Mizo tradition says they are the "children of Manmasi" possibly a corruption of Manasseh. Their rituals include a fragment of a "red sea song" and the symbolic circumcision of a baby boy eight days after birth; their god is named Za or Ya, possibly linguistically related to the biblical Yahweh. The attempt to trace Mizo traditions is frustrated by the disintegration of what they call "the old religion" as Christianity has insinuated itself into even remote regions of Asia. The intense desire of the Mizos to be considered Jews is both comical and touching (and colored by an equally intense desire to emigrate to Israel); their internecine conflicts over theology will be sadly familiar to Jews everywhere. Halkin offers a rich portrait of an entire people suffering an identity crisis in the midst of a region filled with ethnic turmoil, and his conclusions about the origins of the Manmasi people will amaze even skeptical readers.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Like the search for Atlantis and for Noah's Ark, the search for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has entranced both professional scholars and amateur sleuths. Native American and Bantu tribes, North African Berbers and Tauregs of the Sahara, have all been linked to the tribes with varying degrees of credibility. Halkin is a native of New York City who has lived in Israel since 1970. His search for a lost tribe led him to scour remote regions of China and the borderlands of northeast India. He writes with a beautifully descriptive, flowing prose that enhances our appreciation of the exotic locales and peoples he encountered. He also marshals some fascinating anecdotal and semihistorical evidence to support his conclusions. Ultimately, however, his claim to have "proved" that the Kuki-Chin-Mizo people of northeast India and Burma are linked to the ancient Israelites does not ring true. Still, his efforts to prove his case have resulted in an absorbing tale of a quest that succeeds as a travel book rather than as a work of historical scholarship. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

An author, journalist, and internationally renowned, awarding-winning translator, Hillel Halkin has translated several novels from Hebrew into English.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First, before starting this book, I recommend that you take a look at the author�s two page guide to pronunciation, to better understand the Hebrew, Mizo, Thado, and Burmese words in the text. Halkin, a well known translator of Hebrew books, posits that a little-known ethnic group living along the Indian-Burmese border is descended from the ancient Jewish tribe of Manasseh. The fate of the ten lost tribes of Israel has haunted Jewish and Christian imaginations throughout the ages. Hillel Halkin has long been intrigued by the subject. And why not? Many American Jews of a certain age dreamed of an aboriginal, strong, warrior Jew, the type who could win fistfights on the way to and from junior high school. And so, Halkin embarked on a journey. In 1998, he accompanied a Jerusalem rabbi and dedicated lost-tribes hunter to China, Thailand, and northeast India, where the rabbi hoped to discover traces of the lost tribes. Halkin went with a very healthy dose of skepticism. Most look at Rabbi Avichail as a well meaning crackpot. Whatever the Rabbi is, he makes for an interesting story, having traveled to Marranos in Portugal, Karens in Burma, Tatars in Dagestan, Kananites in Kerala, and �Indians� in Manipur and Mizoram. The book captures your interest from its first paragraph. The Sabbath is approaching as Halkin and the rabbi are searching out the non-Chinese Chiang�s in Western Szechuan. Then the police arrive at their hotel. You�ll have to read the book to find out what happens. After a variety of adventures and misadventures, Halkin returned several times to the Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, where 5000 people belive they are a lost tribe of Hebrews. Are these people the victims of a mass cultural delusion, having accepted a myth to promote and reinforce their distinct cultural identity?Read more ›
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Richard Zimler on September 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Is it possible that one of the Lost Tribes made its way to East Asia or the Indian subcontinent more than two thousand years ago and that even today vestiges can be found of its beliefs and culture?
Only someone with the heart of an explorer and background of a Jewish history scholar could have written this wonderful book, which reads like a good mystery. Halkin takes the reader with him along jungle backroads and into out-of-the-way villages on his search for the tiny clues that might just pull away the curtain on two thousand years of history. It's an exciting journey. The author's sense of humor and colorful writing keep things lively, and his scholarship adds unusual depth. I read the last two hundred pages in one sitting.
I won't give away the ending - and what Halkin finds - but I will say that the heroes of this story are those tenacious souls who memorized the traditional stories of their people and remembered them long enough for someone like Halkin to finally come along and listen.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on September 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an enormously enjoyable book that is both educational and thrilling. In 1999, Israeli journalist Hillel Halkin accompanied the eccentric Rabbi Avichail to Mizoram (in Northeast India near the Burma border) in order to investigate whether the Mizo people who lived there were indeed the descendants of one of the "Lost Tribes of Israel." Halkin is skeptical and constantly has to challenge Rabbi Avichail's fanatic true-believer mindset. Then Halkin's own investigative methods begin to reveal surprising things. This is a fascinating scientific mystery. Halkin entertainingly gives a clear history of the lost tribes as well as the many theories about what happened to them that have been posited by others over the centuries (including the once popular notion that the Lost Tribes wound up in North America, in which belief the Mormon Church is rooted). The Mizo people believe that they are Jews and want to get back to their true roots. They also want to immigrate to Israel for a better life. As a result they throw themselves into the study of Judaism with the zeal of Holy Rollers at a revival meeting. Rival synagogues are founded that try to incorporate Jesus into Jewish teaching. Rabbi Avichail has his hands full when he tries to explain to them that they cannot do that. The Mizo people had thrown off their indigenous religion in favor of Fundamentalist Christianity at the beginning of the 20th Century. There are very few people among them who remember anything about the former religion. Halkin tries to find out what, if anything, their former religion had in common with Judaism. His efforts are hampered, Halkin realizes, by his third-rate con man translator, who is not above creating phony evidence and altering existing evidence.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Hillel Halkin has done a marvelous job of consolidating the knowledge of a lost people and weeded out myth, superstition and misplaced information.



On a trip to NorthEast India, Halkin was bit by the "Lost Tribe" bug that has had Jews looking all over the world for the northern tribes of Israel who were exiled by Assyrian Empire in the 7th century b.c.e. Where did they go? Based on this study by Hillel, part of the tribe of Manasseh migrated across central asia, past Tibet and into the Burma/India border area.

He studied the stories told by " the old people " who predated the Kuki-Mizo-Chin migration into the Mizoram/Assam area of northeast India. Once the area was under British protectorship in the late nineteenth century, many of the stories/storytellers were lost because of the proselytizing of Christian missionaries. The missionaries did their best to destroy the old religion, and force people not to teach it or the language of the priesthood to the next generation.

Luckily, Hillel was able to find one man, who himself was quite elderly, who had spent forty years, collecting and documenting the old stories and religious rites. What he was able to prove in the end was that included in the old stories were parts of stories from the Old Testament that had been passed down in families prior to the OT being translated into the indigenous language or taught by the missionaries (many who considered the OT to be too Hebraic and not 'christian' oriented).

Though these families had 'israelite' traditions, they were a hodgepodge of stories that had been enbedded with local history and myth.
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